It’s a beautiful sunday morning with the bright sun shining on the university town of Manipal. The walk started out with all of us going to AMCARE – a clinic with resources dedicated to healing people and not just curing diseases, situated in Udupi, a small city in the state of Karnataka, India.
The clinic is associated with paramedical college by the name Chyavana, whose students also had come to support us in our cause. We met up with Dr. Suresh Shenoy – an Orthopaedician, Dr. Prabhakar Mallya – a Physician and Dr. Ajay Prabhu – a dentist in Udupi. The event began with Dr. Prabhu speaking about oral cancer for a few minutes to brush us up before we started talking to the general public. He explained how the disease starts out and runs its course. He also took time to explain on how to detect it early and how to treat it subsequently. He also spoke to bust a few myths about its treatment modalities.
As a symbolic gesture, we tied black ribbon bands to our arms. Then we took the show on the road. Walking down the streets with two banners and twenty people distributing fliers to every passer-by so as to reach as many people as possible. We stopped by every store that was open to inform the owners about oral cancer, its detection and treatment.
The local public was very receptive with a lot of people that actually stopped to listen to one of us explaining the information. We stopped for longer at stores where either tobacco or cigarettes were sold. We also stopped particular people who work as daily wage laborers or auto drivers because they are a high risk group that includes a lot of tobacco chewers. It was easy to catch their attention by the mere mentioning of tobacco and cancer in the same sentence.
We walked on the left side of the road for a distance of about 4 kms before deciding to turn around and walk back to the origin. On the way back, we walked on the other side of the road and covered the stores on that side. We were getting exhausted and dehydrated because the sun was scorching over our heads. One of the store owners was really kind. He sent his son with bottles of cold water to cool us all. He didn’t ask for money either. Just wanted to help us out. That made us all forget about the heat and kept the enthusiasm from drying up. We distributed fliers enthusiastically till the last remaining one was given out and explained well to the public.
A thousand fliers were printed for the walk and hence we managed to reach out to a thousand people. But we could have made a few more fliers and still would have used them up. It was worth the hot Sunday afternoon because people realized the damage the disease can do and how early intervention can be helpful. We told them how it was not as much about the dosage of tobacco or cigarettes as it was about the duration of consumption. People in turn, asked questions about it and cleared their doubts then and there.
So all in all, it was a walk for a good cause that succeeded in spreading awareness about oral cancer with a very receptive public that strengthened the group’s will to fight for the cause.
Oral cancer is a part of a bigger group of cancers broadly referred to as head and neck cancers. Statistically, about 640,000 people suffer from this terrible disease annually all over the world. Screening for oral cancer is difficult because it has no predilection with respect to gender, age or race. Besides, multiple factors can lead to oral cancer – making it even more difficult to tackle at the root level. However, treatment options have improved dramatically, in terms of surgical therapies, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Unfortunately, even after improved treatment modalities, we have not seen a significant rise in the long-term survival of patients of oral cancer. This is mainly due to the biologic nature of this cancer which grows slowly while people neglect it and do not seek help in the early course of the disease. Thus, the diagnosis is delayed, which effectively means that by the time patients do seek help, they are already in the later stages of the disease. That is why it becomes all the more important to spread public awareness about oral cancer and promote oral health. Oral cancer, if diagnosed at an early stage, can be treated and that can help minimize the development of new cancers or metastatic disease.
As a specialist in the treatment of this disease I constantly educate my patients about the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I also encourage them to have periodic examinations performed by a professional in order to prevent any unforgivable delays in diagnosis. I hope to contribute as much as I can to this blog. I would be happy to assist anyone with questions about this disease, its treatment or any related queries.
Every journey begins with a single step. We may have a long way to go in finding a cure for cancer. Meanwhile let’s work towards education, prevention, early diagnosis and management of this affliction because every single person saved from oral cancer is a step further towards a cancer free world.
Daniel Oreadi, DMD
We see in this photograph, Dr. Prashant Sharma who helped us arrange an educational program on oral cancer for the teaching staff of the Tiny Tots School, Imli Fatak, Jaipur. It was coupled with a dental camp organized for children by Vaidya Dental Clinic of the same locality. It gave us the opportunity to educate those, who educate the children.
It was an interactive session, in which we distributed information literature and also demonstrated the Six Step Screening, a technique of screening oral cancer formulated by Eva Grayzel (a stage IV oral cancer survivor, a motivational speaker and an author) on one of the volunteers. She has been working for oral cancer a lot by conducting talks and emphasizing on regular screenings of the same. (her official page: http://www.sixstepscreening.org/)
WHAT IS IT?
It is an initiative of Oral Cancer Organization that comes under their objective of spreading social awareness about cancer through presentations, awareness drills, roadshows and camps.
The target is to make the general public aware of the characteristics of oral cancer and encourage them for regular screenings and to have a healthy life style that will keep them away from the risk of developing oral cancer.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
We keep carrying out different events. You can be a part of them. Keep following us on Facebook and our blog. Suggest us any new ideas you have and we will help you execute them for the cause. It could range from Awareness Walks, Seminars, and any kind of Fund-Raisers, Educational Programs etc.
WHY IS THIS REQUIRED?
Because oral cancer usually becomes more evident in the advanced stages, when it becomes hard to control it. Moreover, if it is diagnosed early, it can be cured with better chances of patient survival and with less suffering after the treatment procedure.